Trail Of Death Journey

Journal notes walking the "Trail of Death" tracing the Potawatomi Indians forced removal from Indiana to Kansas in 1838. This blog is in process of being re-ordered and moved to

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Location: Marion, Indiana, United States

Professor Emeritus


Day 53 Lexington – Mile 566
October 26, 1838

In a short two hours the party made it to the ferry crossing of the Missouri River at Lexington. By ten AM they were crossing the wagons, as usual leaving the Indians on the opposite shore form a town. All that hampered them was “we found the ferry fully engaged in transporting females who were flying from their homes. Reports are rife throughout the country of bloodshed, house-burning, etc. The people seem completely crazed. Apparently the woman and children were fleeing the region allowing the men to stay behind and fight off the threat from the Mormons. But they did get all the wagons but a few across by dark leaving the next day to complete the ferriage of the Missouri River.

AS FOR ME I got in high gear today. It was cool with a strong breeze blowing so I walked into Hardin then Richmond and then all the way to Lexington anticipating the “weekend” of a full day off I’ve not had for a while.

As I crossed the Missouri I rebembered the 1999 trip I took by canoe down the entire Missouri river, including a stop at Lexington. This is the first time in all my trekking that I have ever crossed a precious trail--Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Colorodo Trail, Missouri River; White River-to Mississippi river... this is the first "intersection" of two treks... what I remember most from that trek was the abject loneliness I felt alone on that river for so long. That's oe of the things I like better about this walk--I meet people every day--friendly and interesting people.

I had to walk three miles past Lexington to find a motel and when I found them I registered two nights. When I went to the large Lexington Inn I found it abandoned and grass growing everywhere. Rats! I asked a lady back on the highway if there was any other motel in Lexongton to which she replied, "There's a little brick one across the river run by forigners--if they're there." Sure enough I found a brick 1950’s motel operated by folk from India. (They have operated it for 27 years--I wonder when they will be considered "Americans" by their neighbors?) . No pool, no phone, all-smoking rooms I was heppy that it was suitably clean and I determined to have a full day without walking--Monday.

Of course the library and post office was 3 miles away a six-mile round trip. However the owner of the motel offered his van and the motel handiman drove me into the library reducing my 6-mile trip to a mere 3 mile return trip--merely enough to keep my muscles warm. And I already walked the 3 miles south getting ot the motel last night!

Too bad the new bridge across the Missouri has bypassed the traffic around Lexington. It will hurt this downtown I'm afraid. Stoplights and narrow roads make for off-the-cuff stops which is what keeps towns like this afloat. I hope people come on purpose. Just watch how friendly the people are--even if you are a walker. And that's saying something since people naturally are suspicious of walkers.

I plan to return to the trail Tuesday morning after updating this blog today (Monday) getting my mail drop here and answering letters, taking several afternoon naps, and generally taking a day of rest. I hear that Kerry Kind may join me for a few days on Tuesday, hope you make it Kerry! I'm going back to the motel to take a nap!

Added late afternoon:
Well, no nap yet. At the post office I recieved more than 30 pieces of mail! Woah! Some of them had bounced four times as they skipped across post offies like a flat stone skips across a lake--now they caught me (I'm here in Lexington several days after my announced date too! THANKS TO ALL OF YOU! As I promised I have answered every one. I LOVE THIS TOWN! The librarian greeted me happily. the Mexican restaraunt was delicious. The postal clerk was gracious. The town has more than 25 BENCHES all around the sidewalks expecting people to rest and relax. As I answered my letters on one of these benches eight--count 'em EIGHT--people slowed down and greeted me with a friendly hello... and only one person, the ninth walked past without a friendly greeting. Lexington is a town that has not yet been Wal-Martized. You can still buy things in the down town--things like shoes or furniture or office supplies. It is only a town of 5000--yet has a sixplex theater. What a delightful clean and friendly town! I think I'll go out and enjoy it more!


Blogger One Hand Clapping said...

Hello. Please don't take this the wrong way. This has only been my perception, thus, could be wrong.
I anticipated here, a bit more on the Indian struggle on this walk, with your thoughts on some kind of spirituality.
A few of your thoughts the past few days, especially the man collecting the cans, well, had me thinking I might have been wrong. Yet, after reading your interaction that day, I came away still feeling the same.
Perhaps, on a walk like this, one can't help but to talk about oneself if not used to feet hurting, etc, etc.
Again, nothing you've done, perhaps I expected too much.
Good Luck with the rest of your trip.
As an aside, maybe too the book you're writing is only for the people surrounding you in your school environment?
Thus far, nothing really compels me to want to purchase and read your experience after what you've written here.
I appreciate the time you've put into this and know despite these thoughts, please go in Peace! OHC

1:31 PM  
Blogger Keith.Drury said...

Thanks one-hand... you are right, I am writing for the people who already read my books... my "readers" not others. And, yep... the spirituality and thinking part is in the section I'm dictating. (though it will not represent natural Indian spirituality--I am a Christian minister and a Protastant and will represent my own denomination though I ahve great respect for the Catholics). If I put the real meat of the book here on line why would ANYbody buy the book ;-) So I've dictated that part and will type it up when I get home this coming year.

I probably ought to say that I am not taking this journey as an Indian but as a white man. I am not taking it "for" anybody else or group even. It is not a political statement or a stunt to attract attention to the TOD (though through the work of others I keep having to respond to newspapers and TV--much to my dislike excapt to attract attention to the trail)

So I am am only writing my own reflections and they will not suit the interest of the standard "Indian market" so much as the interesta nd needs of people who already read my books.

I have ben inventing some pain... but generally I've tried limitingmy writing to what I can read in the record. I do not want to write a fictionalized account. But one ought to be written--I hope someone does get an interest in the story here and write up something that focuses more on the INdians and what they experienced. For me I'm also interested in people like the missionary who was not forced to take this trip but did it willingly becase he loved his congregation--my readers will be especially intrested in that story, and Petit's letter at the end clearly shows what he willingly went through out of compassion and love.

Thanks for the thoughts and if I was out to create a new "market" for my books I'd respond and write the book you might be interested in--but alas--I only can write to book in me... what comes out goes on paper.

Maybe you or someone else will write something that focuses on the Indian's pain more. I mention instances from time to time but that is not my primary focus. I suppose that is because as I have experienced it the pain is not the central message--I think it is the injustice, the collaboration, kindness in the midst of injustice, faith and the terrible results even 150 years later of making people victims of injustice.

But whatever--I write only what I feel on the journey. Maybe my writing might trigger others to walk this trail some day and write form other perspectives. Since I am taking this walk as who I am I can only write what I experience and see in the story. This is why there is room for scores of books on the journey--there are scores of perspectives worth exploring.

Thanks for being sensistive to the difficulty I face on such a trek. I am a travel writer and a (Christian) devotional writer not a historian nor an Indian writer. Many want me to take this trip "for them" in some way or another "representing" an interest or attracting attention to the pain, or the markers that have been placed, or the car caravan that has travelled, or Native Indian spirituality--or whatever (you should read the mail I just got here in lexington to see the varied causes suggested to me). The same goes for the newspapers and TV stations--they all have their mind made up on the angle they intend to approach this from.

But I have to take my walk and write my own experience. I can only writeas what I am-a white Christian man. Thus I am just as interested in my own race on this trek--Tipton, Polke, the doctor, the missionary Petit and others good and bad--as I am the Indians.
Some of these men were evil and others good and some mixed.

One thing I am absolutely convinced of. I cannot speak for Indians or even represnt them. I cannot even speak to them. A Native American perspective on this journey must come from Native Americans, not some white professor. This is their own job.

Thanks for the kind words though one-hand-clapping, and the kind way you said it. You did "expect too much." That book you desire can be written by someone I hope it is.

I hope for this: I hope an Indian will take this trip and write the sort of book you're wanting. This is their job, not mine. Only an Indian can legimately write that book after walking these miles. I think it is unfortunate that for 150 years no Indian has yet walked this path and written such a book If I finish this trail a white man will be the first to walk this trail. Rightfully it should have been an Indian first--a Potawatomi. Or maybe a Potawatomi and a white man together--that would be a great idea.

AS FOR ME I can only take this hike as a solo white man writing only my experience in standard travel-writing fashion.

Thanks for the thoughts though. For a suffering story we all have the Trail of Tears (which was numerically and percentage-wise the ultimate Trail of death. Perhaps some day such writing will emerge on this trail. For now hardly anybody in the villages through which it passes even know about it--let alone the masses of humanity. Maybe some Potawatomi will read this or my book or see something on TV or in the newspaper and like me (after seeing a tiny piece in my newspaper) will decide to walk this trail as an indians seeing everything from that erpspective. I certainlyy will read that book when it coems out!

2:16 PM  
Blogger One Hand Clapping said...

Thanks for your response.
First, of course you could not have written from the Indian perspective, now or ever, that is understandable.
What's done is done. Nothing can change, or ever will, in any of these situations.
Yet, look at what people today are backing, with their so called Christianity. (Iraq among a few)It's nonsense, Thou Shalt Not Kill, pure and simple. And to blow away the fact that so many innocent people die, who've had nothing to do with any of what's going on. I'm sure you get my drift.
A shame then that your own spirituality, hasn't come across, at least enough for me to understand it.
Yet, that's a quality (yes, my book is aimed at my market) that pervades all Religions, only looking as near as the people are to you, rather than reaching outward to connect with others without twisting their arms.
I won't say I have any negative feelings, 'cause I don't, can't and there's no need.
But like your story of a few days ago, feeling like you were in the way of a church group somewhere, well, one should never, ever feel like that anywhere, anytime, anyplace, anyhow.
Again, appreciate yoursharing your thoughts, since you have the time, and yes, I can "imagine" your letters.
I used to work at the paper in SF for 18 yrs, before coming out here.
Good thoughts to you ; )

2:36 PM  
Blogger tricia said...

Your post has me thinking. I don't think I would say hi to you a stranger on a park bench. I have been raised in the city, (or I guess actually the suburbs of relatively big cities) and I have been taught not to talk to strangers. When we moved to IN for school at IWU I thought it was so odd that strangers said hello to me at the grocery store, and once a stranger even offered us a ride home since we were carrying several bags of grpceries (found out later he was the ex-mayor) but I was too afraid to even do that. You are living an amazingly different life than what I see and experience.
I consciously work to notice the people I live amongst (dry cleaner, grocery store clerk, day care staff, etc.) around me and interact with them, but I also feel a sense of prudence when interacting with total strangers. I certainly know they are valuable, but not sure where the balance between valueing them and being smart is. I know you are not saying I should roam the streets looking for a stranger to start a conversation with, but just the same you do have me thinking about it.
Best to you as you continue your journey.
I hope you meet lots more people who are friendlier than me :-)

6:49 PM  
Blogger Summers said...


It has been great following you on your trek. Reading your posts and people's responses has been very insightful and rewarding. I wish I could have journeyed with you. By the way, great response in regards to the egocentric comment about the Indian Hotel owners--"I wonder when they will be considered "Americans" by their neighbors?" :-) …So True!

Looking forward to connecting with you when you get back to good 'ol Marion, thanks for the Ride!


8:00 AM  
Blogger JohnLDrury said...

Sounds like a great town. I hope you can keep enjoying it!

5:02 AM  
Blogger David Drury said...

Yes... I'll need to get off the highway for that town someday. I should mark it on the Atlas!

On the other discussion: the great thing about a Memoir is that it represents ONE JOURNEY -- and through that singularity the others that "read over the shoulder" are able to generalize it for themselves.

I'd much rather read a specific story with particulars than a supposedly generalized collection of advice columns.

Let me do the application for myself.

So go with your gut and write *your* story.

7:21 AM  
Blogger Summers said...

Good point Dave!


8:00 AM  
Blogger Miranda said...

I just saw an article about your journal on and I'm fairly certain you'll be getting a lot of traffic soon. I've only read a few of your posts so far, but I want to take this opportunity to tell you how amazing this is. I remember first learning of this journey in 7th grade history and I know I was apalled. To me, you're doing something incredibly admirable. This is a sort of devotion that not many people have.

8:49 AM  

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